Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Study the Beatitudes?

If Jesus were to give a power point presentation the Beatitudes would be his bullet points on the screen.
They are important because they represent a summary of all of Jesus' teaching.

We do not know historically exactly when or where Jesus spoke these important words. We do know it was on a "mountain. Possibly Mount Tabor. His disciples followed Him there and he instructed them.

Saint Gregory writes,

Who among those present is a disciple of the Word, and sufficiently so to ascend with Him from the low ground–from superficial and ignoble thoughts to the spiritual mountain of sublime contemplation? This mountain leaves behind all shadows cast by the rising hills of wickedness; on the contrary, it is lit up on all sides by the rays of the true light, and from its summit all things that remain invisible to those imprisoned in the cave may be seen in the pure air of truth. Now the Word of God Himself, who calls blessed those who have ascended with Him, specifies the nature and number of the things that are contemplated from this height. He points them out, as it were, with His finger; here the Kingdom of Heaven, there the inheritance of the earth that is above, then mercy, justice, consolation, kinship with the God of all creation, and the fruit of persecution, that is, to become a friend of God. And whatever other things there may be visible, the Word points them out with His finger from the summit of the mountain, so that hope may contemplate them from the height of the peak.

See how Saint Gregory uplifts us! He is planning on taking us on a journey to a high spiritual place, "the spiritual mountain of sublime contemplation." As we will see later he views the Beatitudes as a series of steps leading us to union with God, and when we reach the summit we will find the Lord in all His glory.

Saint Gregory invites us as sinners to make the journey up the mountain. He wants us to clearly understand what Jesus is saying so we can "follow Him to the heights," to the "summit of hope."

Saint Gregory continues,

Since, then, the Lord ascends the mountain, let us listen to Isaias who cries: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. If we are weak through sin, let our feeble hands and weak knees be strengthened, as the Prophet instructs us. For when we have reached the summit, we shall find Him who heals all illness and languor, who takes up our infirmities and bears our diseases. Let us therefore ascend quickly, so that we may be established with Isaias on the summit of hope and see from this vantage point the good things that the Word shows to those who follow Him to the heights. May God the Word open His mouth also for us, and teach us those things which to hear is bliss. May the beginning of the teaching He pronounces become to us the beginning of contemplation.

As we meditate on these eight points, we too will grow in the virtues.

Next we will look at the first Beatitude, about the poor in spirit.

What did Jesus mean by "poor in spirit"?

Quotes for Gregory are taken from His sermons on the Beatitudes which can be found in Ancient Christian Writers volume 18. It includes his sermons on the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes. The translation is by Hilda C. Graff.

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